Preview Washington at New York
(SportsNetwork.com) - After losing a small bit of ground to one National League East club over the weekend, the first-place Washington Nationals will try to prevent the New York Mets from getting back into the race.
The two division rivals kick off a three-game set on Tuesday night at Citi Field.
The Nationals dropped two of three to Atlanta last weekend, allowing the Braves to pull within 3 1/2 games of first place after Washington lost Sunday's finale 3-1. However, the idle Nats did get a half-game back to their edge when the Braves lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday.
The Mets, meanwhile, won three of four over the Philadelphia Phillies prior to this series, but still trail the Nationals by 7 1/2 games.
Washington hitters struck out 12 times against Atlanta starter Alex Wood on Sunday, while Gio Gonzalez fanned eight and gave up two runs in 4 2/3 innings, lifted due to a high pitch count and taking the loss.
"They were fouling off pitches," Gonzalez said. "They kept running up my pitch count. There were a couple of guys at the bottom of the order that were fouling me off for seven or eight pitches, maybe nine."
The Nats managed one run despite Denard Span doubling twice to extend his streak of reaching base safely to 36 straight games. He has a hit in 14 in a row as well, lifting his average to .306 with 32 doubles and 23 stolen bases.
Doug Fister starts for the Nationals and is 6-1 with a 1.96 earned run average over his last eight starts. He has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of those outings and is coming off a 7-1 win over the Mets.
The right-hander was charged with just one unearned run over 7 1/3 innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out seven.
In two starts versus the Mets, Fister has won both while giving up one earned run over 13 2/3 innings for a 0.66 ERA.
The 30-year-old is an excellent 11-3 with a 2.49 ERA on the season.
The Mets won the finale of their wraparound series with the Phillies 5-3, with Anthony Recker belting a tie-breaking three-run homer in the seventh inning off Philadelphia reliever Justin De Fratus.
"Obviously once [the count] got to 3-2 it was just a battle," said Recker. "Just trying to get a pitch and see it and hit it, and fortunately I was able to hit it well."
New York did place rookie starter Jacob deGrom on the disabled list following the game due to a shoulder injury and recalled 23-year-old Rafael Montero to take his place in the rotation beginning tonight.
Montero made the first four starts of his major league career back in May, going 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA. He struck out 17 batters in 20 innings, including 10 over six frames on May 25 versus Arizona, but yielded 12 earned runs and five homers.
The right-hander has gone 6-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 15 starts this year at Triple-A Las Vegas.
"[Montero] certainly has the stuff that will play in the major leagues," Mets manager Terry Collins told his club's website. "He needs to throw strikes, and if he does that, he'll be here for a long time."
Montero will be facing the Nats for the first time.
The Nationals have won seven of nine against the Mets this season and 12 of the past 14 meetings overall. They swept a three-game set in New York from March 31-April 3.